Last year a suicide epidemic swept through Japan. Hundreds of Japanese killed themselves by mixing ordinary household chemicals to create a cloud of poison gas that often injured others and forced the evacuation of homes and apartment buildings.
A USA Today report told this grim story:
The 517 self-inflicted deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning this year are part of a bigger, grimmer story: Nearly 34,000 Japanese killed themselves last year, according to the Japanese national police. That's the second-highest toll ever in a country where the suicide rate is ninth highest in the world and more than double that of the USA, the World Health Organization says.
Japan has long been known as a "nation of suicide," notes sociologist Kayoko Ueno at University of Tokushima. Samurai warriors famously chose seppuku — disemboweling themselves — over surrender. Japanese kamikaze pilots crashed their planes into targets during World War II.
"Suicide is not considered a sin," says sociologist Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University in Tokyo. "We've made it a bit of a virtue."
Authorities are alarmed now that suicide has reached epidemic levels.
• A decade of weak economic growth and the unraveling of Japan's system of lifetime employment have left many middle-age and elderly men unemployed and in financial ruin. Among Japanese suicides, nearly 71% are men, more than 73% are 40 or older, and more than 57% are jobless.
For an unemployed, former "salaryman," suicide can be "a rational decision," Yamada says.
When a man commits suicide in Japan, his beneficiaries can still collect his life insurance. And insurers pay off Japanese home mortgages when a family's breadwinner dies — even if the death is a suicide. "If he dies, the rest of the family gets money," Yamada says. "If he continues to live without a job, they will lose the house."
• The Internet has allowed young, depressed Japanese to get suicide tips and find others with whom they can enter into death pacts.
A few years ago, suicidal Japanese were meeting each other online, driving out into the countryside, shutting themselves up in the back of vans and killing themselves in clouds of carbon monoxide by burning charcoal briquettes. "People really want to be connected. People got together to die," says anti-suicide activist Koji Tsukino, 43.
Read the full report here.
It seems apparent that where suicide is glorified the number of cases increases. Consider suicide bombers who kill themselves and others believing this an honorable end. It is also evident that despair about one's future is a contributing factor.
Only Greenland has a higher incidence of suicide for population. Read about that here.
For resources in coping with suicidal thoughts, go here.